3 Rights Renters Should Know to Maintain Privacy and Recoup Costs

by Sean Bryant on February 26, 2014

For RentRenters assume they are subject to every statute that property owners set forth because units are privately-owned. However, state mandates require landlords to be respectful of tenants and their needs. Rent installments are designed to cover all living costs – including a sense of general wellbeing– and landlords should consider the comfort of the tenant throughout the duration of the lease.

Keep the following laws in mind when assessing rental living conditions.

Notice to Enter

By law, property managers cannot enter apartments without giving proper notice beforehand. Renters pay monthly dues to reside in rentals and should be given respectful privacy throughout lease periods. In most states, landlords must give two days’ notice prior to entering, unless in cases of emergency. After entering a unit for an emergency, the landlord must provide the tenant with written documentation detailing why they entered without prior notice, such as a leak or fire.

Property managers cannot harass tenants by frequently entering rentals without concrete reasoning, even if they are following visiting protocol. If tenants feel as though landlords are requesting to visit too often, they can take legal action to protect their privacy.

Timely Repairs

Tenants deserve timely repairs for broken or unsafe conditions in their units. Create a paper trail by sending requests for repairs in writing through certified mail with a return receipt. Typically, renters are advised to take follow-up action if there is no response after two weeks. If a month passes since the initial request, call a contractor to make repairs and pay out-of-pocket. Keep the receipt and deduct applicable repair fees from the next month’s rent payment. Make sure to attach a copy of the itemized repairs so landlords can see the various charges outlined. Save a copy of the request, the return receipt from the United States Postal Service, and the original receipt and itemized list of repairs from the contractor. Most states protect the tenant in this case, and landlords do not have the right to charge tenants for repairs or claim outstanding rent from subsidized repair costs.

Rent Stabilization

Tenants spend a significant amount of time searching for rental properties within their desired budgets before negotiating an agreeable lease with a landlord. If the unit, budget and location suit the tenant well during their first lease period the tenant may want to sign a second or extended lease. However, rent prices are subject to change due to location popularity, competitive markets or apartment upgrades. Increased rents can price current tenants out of continued contracts and force them to start their moving processes over again.

Depending on relationship history with a rental management firm, tenants are sometimes able to negotiate rent stabilization. If the landlord agrees, tenants pay the same price as when they initially leased their units, regardless of outside influences. However, property managers are only likely to honor this request if tenants have been timely with previous payments, respectful of properties and courteous to management and other residents. Therefore, it pays to be a good renter if planning to renew a lease without inflated rent.

Laws vary by state; make sure to read up on local tenant rights to fully grasp individual liberties as a leaseholder. While the aforementioned civil liberties apply to most cities, know the specifics in state laws to correctly process requests and maintain a positive relationship with property managers.

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created OneSmartDollar.com in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and he wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his daughter Colette and dog Charlie.

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